5-on-5: Recapping Las Vegas Summer League

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Who has been the top rookie and vet at the Las Vegas Summer League? Who or what has been the biggest surprise? Our 5-on-5 panel weighs in.

1. Who was the best rookie in Vegas?

Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Norman Powell, Toronto. When a guy touted as a potential defensive specialist averages 18.3 points on better than 50 percent shooting, and 4.3 boards in 25.5 minutes per game, it bodes well -- and that's especially true when he's a second-rounder. The knock on the Raptors' shooting guard is his size (6-foot-4), playmaking and accuracy from distance, but he shot the ball well from beyond the arc this week.

Amin Elhassan, ESPN.com:Emmanuel Mudiay. The physical gifts were expected (although he looks a lot bigger in person than he does on film), but I was really surprised by the maturity and poise he exhibited. He rarely seemed rushed or forced, and was able to dictate the tempo at a level far beyond his young age of 19.

D.J. Foster, TrueHoop: Jerian Grant. No rookie looked more ready to run a team, as the Knicks' point guard made a concerted effort to keep the ball moving in the triangle and pick his spots within the offense. The displayed combination of floor vision and 3-point shooting is enticing, but it was Grant's poise in the chaos that impressed most.

Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: Alan Williams. The undrafted rookie from UC Santa Barbara led all rookies in both scoring and rebounding, capped by a 20-20 performance in Friday's finale. He's earned some guaranteed money for training camp.

Justin Verrier, ESPN.com: Mudiay. He can't shoot yet (38.5 percent from the floor in Vegas, 14.3 from 3), and averaged almost as many turnovers (5.0) as assists (5.8), but the 19-year-old already has the size, poise and playmaking ability of a more-veteran player. Two decades later, the Nuggets may have another Congolese superstar on their hands.

2. Who was the best veteran in Vegas?

Arnovitz: Kyle Anderson, San Antonio. "Slo-mo" averaged 22.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and better than a block and steal in less than 27 minutes per game, but the statline isn't the story here. Anderson was simply the most skilled and most intelligent player on the floor in Vegas. In an era when the league is increasingly valuing "basketball players" over freak athletes, Anderson seems primed for a jump in his second season.

Elhassan: Kyle Anderson. I'm an unabashed fan of the man affectionately known as Slo-Mo, and love his passing ability and the way he is unfazed by his severe lack of athleticism -- if anything, he uses it to his advantage against overactive defenders. The field-goal percentages are not where you'd like them to be, but Anderson isn't going to win any minutes during the season for his scoring prowess.

Foster: Kyle Anderson. His slow-motion game looked completely out of place, but in all the best ways. Anderson's ability to consistently lure defenders into fouls and mess with the timing of shot-blockers was straight out of a veteran's handbook, and the stat-stuffing elsewhere showed that his development into Boris Diaw 2.0 is coming along just fine.

Pelton: Seth Curry. The leading scorer in summer league, Curry is also tops in steals per game. He's shown the ability to create for himself off the dribble even though his 3-point shot has not been falling.

Verrier: Seth Curry. The Curry family is having itself a year. After Steph's side of the tree dominated the NBA storylines this past season with success and adorability, Seth appropriately leads the Las Vegas Summer League in scoring (albeit while shooting under 20 percent from 3) and is the favorite to add another MVP trophy to Mamma Curry's mantel.

3. Who or what was the biggest surprise in Vegas?

Arnovitz: The size of the crowds. Some of that can be chalked up to the Lakers and Knicks showcasing Top 5 picks in D'Angelo Russell and Kristaps Porzingis, but there were few super-hyped rookies this season and, let's be honest, the actual basketball product can be brutal. The legion of NBA junkies is growing by the year and they're looking for any opportunity to get within an arm's reach of the pro game.

Elhassan: Undrafted free agent Maurice Ndour showing out for the Knicks' summer league squad. Here's an unheralded prospect out of mid-major Ohio who struggled just to get predraft workouts lined up, and ended up being one of the best players for the Knicks during the week. He rebounded, he defended, was efficient with his touches and was surprisingly comfortable operating out of the pinch post in the triangle offense, and should have a number of offers lined up from both NBA and European teams.

Foster: The lack of consensus opinions on the top rookies. Aside from Karl-Anthony Towns, it seems like most of the top picks (Russell, Okafor, Porzingis) in this class remain polarizing. The up-and-down performances probably played into that, but it didn't seem like skeptics were being converted at a very high rate this year.

Pelton: Emmanuel Mudiay's court vision. When I saw him at the Nike Hoop Summit, I was impressed by Mudiay's ability to get to the basket but wondered if he could make plays for others. He's shown terrific playmaking in Las Vegas.

Verrier: D'Angelo Russell's averageness. You see the videos of Russell throwing passes like breaking balls and instantly buy in, but the No. 2 overall pick was just OK in Vegas, and looked particularly lead-footed when playing next to the dynamic Jordan Clarkson. He'll probably be fine, and his final line (11.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.2 APG) isn't all that alarming, but, much to the chagrin of the Lakers fans that packed the house, it may take Russell longer than expected to bring glory back to the crestfallen franchise.

4. Which under-the-radar player in Vegas caught your eye?

Arnovitz: Alan Williams. The undrafted rookie out of UCSB put up 20.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game for Houston's squad, and did so efficiently. At a 6-foot-8 center without much range, Williams has a tough road to hoe to a rotation spot in the NBA, but he has a few tricks in his bag, a high-functioning motor and good court awareness.

Elhassan: Norman Powell for Toronto. I was so impressed with his game; not a lot of wasted motion or activity, played within himself and was impactful in his minutes. The Raptors staff raved about his predraft workout and I could see why. Efficient performance from the rookie all week long.

Foster: Dwight Powell. The sophomore power forward came to Dallas in the Rajon Rondo trade, and he may salvage some of that disastrous deal after all. Powell displayed the vaunted "playmaking 4" skill-set, as he stretched the floor in the halfcourt and made plays with all of his athleticism out in transition. He's someone to monitor very closely.

Pelton: Maurice Ndour. The Senegalese big man who played at Ohio has averaged 9.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks while showing the ability to play the high post in the Knicks' triangle offense.

Verrier: Montrezl Harrell. The former Louisville star dipped into the second round of the draft, and thus off most radars, but so far has played with the same hustle, explosion and nastiness that he did in college against higher-quality opponents. He doesn't have optimal size or stretch to be a 4 in today's game, but there's gotta be a spot in the league for a guy who can do this.

5. Which player in Vegas will ultimately be the best pro?

Arnovitz: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota. Basketball is played on the court, but listening to the 19-year-old chat postgame with an unusual combo of confidence and humility, it's hard not to see a winner. When suited up, Towns was always the most intuitive player on the floor -- an impressive passer out of double-teams, a defensive presence who will excel at that end, and an unselfish, communicative teammate. There's very little here not to like.

Elhassan: Towns. Don't overthink this one kids, he was drafted No. 1 for a reason.

Foster: Towns. In the absence of sustained dominance, you're looking for flashes. Towns gave us that in a variety of different settings, both as a passer and a finisher, and it's just hard to identify any real significant weaknesses in his game at such a young age. He's easily the safest bet for high-level production in this draft.

Pelton: Towns. The No. 1 overall pick has justified that selection by showing polish at both ends of the court. Of the top picks in Las Vegas, he's been the most productive.

Verrier: Towns. The numbers (12.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.0 APG) may elicit only tepid takes, but seeing him up close is a whole other experience. He's the biggest guy on the court ... and also the most fluid, the smartest, the most skilled; he's like a Gasol bro in a DeAndre Jordan body. Towns also has a bobbleheaded alter ego. SIGN ME UP.

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